We’ve added 2 new datasets which are Arlington County Trespass Tow Complaints and Arlington County Trespass Tows – view here.
Arlington Data Matters Blog
We use this blog to update the community on dataset changes and other topics of interest. Most posts written by the Department of Technology Services.
Being literate means to be able to understand the meaning of written words. Similarly, being data literate means to be able to derive meaningful information from data.* Just as reading is a fundamental skill for everyone, understanding data has become fundamental at all levels in a workplace and even at home. Using data you can project revenue growth, measure performance, monitor internet usage, track your steps and manage your budget. How can you be sure you, your employees, your family members are data literate? Ask yourself these questions.
- Do you know what data to use for a particular purpose (e.g., right tool for the job)?
- Can you understand data graphs, charts and other visualizations?
- Do you critically examine your course of action in the face of new information?
- Do you have a basic understanding of data analysis tools and methods, and know when to use them?
- Can you catch when data is incorrect or is being, intentionally or not, misrepresented?
- Can you communicate your understanding of particular data to someone else, e.g., storytelling?
If you answered No to any of these questions, you are not alone. Data analysis is a fast growing area of study in college but going back to college is not the only way to bolster your data literacy. Build a spreadsheet in Excel and download a free version of Tableau and try it out. Dig online – there are numerous TED Talks, how-tos, and online classes to get you going. The simplest way to get good with data is to use it more and more – like riding a bike. Why not see how much water you’re drinking in the summer, how often the grass really needs cutting or how many hours you spend commuting? You’ll be surprised at what you find.
* paraphrased from techtarget.com
People are more than just numbers. But there are times when numbers are the best way to help people. That’s where Michael-dharma Irwin, quality assurance manager in the Arlington County Department of Human Services (DHS), comes in.
For more than three years, she has helped DHS programs quantify their impact on the community and coordinate their efforts. She also works with groups regionally and statewide to increase data sharing and transparency to improve County programs and service to residents.
Irwin was recently recognized for her contributions with the ACES (Arlington County Employee Successes) Award. She sat down to discuss her work, how it relates to the County’s priority areas, and how she helps DHS provide high-quality service to all Arlingtonians.
Q: Share a little about your role in the Department of Human Services.
A: The Department of Human Services offers services that help Arlington residents in many different areas of their lives. Our customers range from infants to senior citizens, and their needs span behavioral healthcare, support for basic needs, and public health services. So, we offer a diverse set of services. I work with programs across DHS to measure the impacts they’re having for residents in their daily lives. I also help coordinate efforts between our programs. When you have different staff working with a customer on so many different aspects of that person’s life, it’s important to bring them together and look at the person as a whole, or look at the community’s needs as a whole, to figure out how we can make the biggest difference.
Q: Transparency and data sharing are priorities for Arlington County. How have you worked to improve data sharing locally and regionally?
A: Within the County, I represent DHS on the internal data steering group, which is a new initiative to help enhance our data analytics capacity and support open data projects. One of the challenges DHS faces is that a lot of our programs are state funded or federally funded, and they require us to use data systems that provide limited reporting capabilities to the County. I’ve been working with a coalition of localities from around the state convened by the Virginia Secretary of Health and Human Resources to improve access to the state data.
Data sharing is important for DHS because we need to understand how we’re serving a person across different programs. Say we have a child who’s involved with the child welfare system, and their family also needs food stamps or a housing grant or behavioral health services. If the data in those systems can’t be shared, then we won’t have a complete picture of the factors going on in that child’s life. Sharing data also helps in planning services at the system level. For example, if we find that many of the seniors who receive home-delivered meals also need nursing supports to maintain their independence, then we can better coordinate outreach and services for those programs.
Q: One of your main responsibilities is developing performance measurement plans for DHS programs. How does that work benefit the County and its residents?
A: One of the challenges to using data in human services is that human services can be harder to quantify than some other services. If we’re working at providing mental health therapy or crisis stabilization or economic supports, how do we know that those programs are working? Performance measurement plans help our program managers define the outcomes that we want from a program, how we know if anyone is better off, and what measurements tell us if we’re meeting our own standards. Our performance measurement plans are key to our transparency initiatives. We’ve aligned our budget metrics with the performance measurement plans, and we publish them online. We also use them as a planning tool. In addition to data trends, every performance measurement plan includes recommendations about how we’re going to sustain high performance or make progress toward our goals.
Q: What other programs and initiatives have you worked on for DHS in the past year?
A: Customer service is a major focus for DHS. We want to make sure our customers access services as efficiently as possible and that they’re connecting to the right services to meet their needs. In the Bridges Out of Poverty initiative, we’re working with community nonprofits to understand the factors that can be barriers for people in poverty accessing services, and enhance our systems to reduce those barriers. I’ve had the pleasure of working with a group to improve data exchange systems—helping the nonprofits understand what services are available at DHS, helping DHS staff understand nonprofit programs, and working on ways to streamline information exchange to reduce paperwork for clients who need services from multiple organizations.
I’ve also been fortunate to be a part of the Child Care Initiative. I supervised the initiative’s Risk and Reach Study, a comprehensive analysis of the factors affecting children under 5 in Arlington—where they live, trends in the population, risk factors that impact them, and the resources Arlington currently has to meet the demand for child care. That study integrated a lot of U.S. Census Bureau data, along with state and local data. It’s the kind of analysis that many jurisdictions have to contract out, but we were able to complete it in house more efficiently.
Q: What excites you about the work you do for DHS and Arlington County?
A: One thing I noticed immediately when I came to work at DHS was the quality of our systems and our staff. Arlington County government has a very well-planned approach to major initiatives. It’s also a great pleasure to work with coworkers who are committed to their jobs and so highly qualified and passionate.
I also appreciate that the work we do has such broad impact. Before coming to Arlington County, I worked with nonprofits, where we had a direct and intense effect on the lives of a small group of people. I find it exciting to work for the County government because we can have a more systemic impact on the broader community—we can do a lot to improve the quality of life of residents throughout the County.
Q: What is your favorite thing about Arlington County?
A: I think Arlington is very diverse and vibrant. I enjoy everything the County has to offer, from the restaurants in Shirlington to the Gulf Branch Nature Center. There seems to be room for everyone in Arlington, and there’s a real commitment to making this a welcoming and accessible community for all.
i-Tree Eco Study Results datasets has been published to the open data portal – view here. These datasets contain a results of i-Tree Eco study, summarizing the economic and environmental value of all trees in Arlington County. These datasets are iTree Eco Study Results – Summary, 2016 iTree Eco Study Results – Invasives, 2016 iTree Eco Study Results – Species Distribution.
Reason #1: To help County agencies discover and use information stored in other agencies.
Imagine that as a Parking Planner for the County, you’re asked to prioritize which single-space parking meters should be replaced by more economical multi-space meters. You’d probably start by looking at current and historical parking space allocations and perhaps project a rate of growth. Based on prior years’ experience with a similar exercise, you know these estimates can be wildly off due to unknown circumstances like construction, road closures or legislative changes. This information, unknown to you, is well known to the County divisions that administer these services. Think how much more informed your estimates could be if you tied your metered parking data with construction and right of way permits and information from County Board meetings that impacts parking, and had it sent to you automatically. If this sounds like science fiction, it may surprise you know that it is in reality both simple and inexpensive to do.
A Data Inventory is a first step to making this happen. The inventory is intended to inform departments across the County that information exists that can help them to improve their services. You could search the Data Inventory for keywords – road closure, construction, parking – and find several datasets stored throughout the County. Then you could reach out to that dataset’s “owner” to gain access to that data. Arlington’s Department of Technology Services is working now to facilitate these processes with the goal of improving our services for the community.
Metadata is by definition data that provides information about other data. Make sense? Let’s explain more. Metadata about datasets on our Portal includes information about the system the data is pulled from, when the dataset was last refreshed and a description of the information each column contains, among other things. Arlington County is committed to publishing metadata for every dataset shared for open and collaborative use. Work is now underway to collect and publish metadata for previously published datasets as well as the new ones. Anyone can view the metadata of datasets in the Open Data Portal. If you see data that would be useful to you, reach out to the point of contact (another piece of metadata!) to request access.
No. But that’s a good thing! The County is always changing and evolving. This ever-changing reality means that there is a continuous need to collect new “flavors” of data (think: Arlington now collects video streaming and social media data that was rare even just a few years ago). The County’s approach is to maintain a current data inventory and to identify data within that inventory that is open data. As described in earlier posts, the first version of the data inventory is being collected now. Once it is complete (Summer 2018), the County Manager’s Open Data Advisory Group will submit their recommendations for the order in which open data should be published. County staff will match those recommendations with the resources available to prepare the data and then build and share a schedule for publication. The data inventory is a six-month long effort and prioritization will also take several months. Following that, each dataset will be published against the schedule. This long-term program reflects the County’s strong commitment to open data. Check back for future updates.
In April 2017, Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz appointed 12 members of the Arlington community to serve on the Open Data Advisory Group (ODAG). Working together with County staff, ODAG is tasked with identifying and prioritizing government data that they believe would be the most useful to share with the broader community. Their collective input brings a diverse and informed perspective that helps Arlington County filter and focus on those areas of open data that should be addressed first.
ODAG members also serve as champions for data use and help others to see the many ways in which data can be used to benefit themselves, a business perhaps, or the overall community. A great example of this is one member who successfully built a web application using the newly-posted County Dog License dataset. This effort will enable someone who finds a lost dog to enter the dog’s license number into the app and see the address associated with the license—helping to quickly find the owner. This is just one of the ways the County and ODAG are working together to realize its shared goal of making data more accessible.
We’re appreciative of the contributions made by these members. If you see a member of the Open Data Advisory Group, please thank them for their efforts!
The dataset contains all active department of environmental services projects. The information that is included in the dataset is the Project Name, Division, Status, Phase, Type, Civic Association and Budget. Please view dataset here.
New dataset has been published to the open data portal. This dataset contains a current list of trade names with registered business names and business owner registered agent list dated back from 1936 in Arlington. Please view dataset here.